NCAA 2019 Preview: UCLA

Coming off of a fantastic 2018 season, and the NCAA title, UCLA is under pressure to repeat their success in 2019. While the likes of Oklahoma and Florida won’t make it easy for them, the talent is there, manifested in strong veterans and talented incoming freshmen. UCLA is only without Peng Peng Lee and Janay Honest this year, so while two bars holes will need filled, UCLA´s lineups should remain otherwise untouched. Today, I´ll go over the key contributors for the team, lineup options, my lineups, and vice versa. Enjoy!


Katelyn Ohashi; Senior: 2018 Weekly contributor on BB, FX lock for the FX and BB lineup can contend for VT, maybe UB

Brielle Nguyen: 2018 weekly beamer, lock for BB.

Stella Savvidou: Made UB in 2017, can contend for UB lineup

Macy Toronjo: Has not competed since 2017, can contend for UB and FX


Kyla Ross: Olympic gold medalist, competed AA regularly in 2018 -Finally upgraded to a Y 1.5 on vault- Lock for UB, BB, and VT, has a chance at FX, too

Madison Kocian: Olympic gold medalist, out for much of 2018 season, lock for UB, probably FX as well, can contend for BB

Gracie Kramer: Inconsistent Y1.5, made floor lineup in 2018 -Can contend for VT and FX

Felicia Hano: Y1.5, DLO on floor, 2018 weekly contributor on VT and FX, can contend for BB as well.

Anna Glenn: Weekly contributor on VT, UB in 2018. Should contend for UB, BB, maybe VT??

Grace Glenn: 2018 weekly beamer, likely candidate for BB, can fight for UB as well.


Nia Dennis: Competed VT and UB regularly in 2018, Y1.5 on vault, lock for vault.

Pauline Tratz: Weekly FX and VT contributor, lock for both lineups.

Savannah Kooyman: Contender for BB, FX


Marz Frazier: 2017 USA national team member, DTY, lock for VT, UB, FX, can contend for BB.

Norah Flatley: The one who was a gr8 junior, Chow’s gymnastics, new Peng Peng Lee..?, please?, lock for UB, BB, and contender for FX as well.

Sekai Wright: DLO, Y1.5, lock for VT and FX?


Vault: Lineup locks: Felicia Hano, Nia Dennis, Sekai Wright, Kyla Ross, Marz Frazier, Pauline Tratz

Lineup options: Gracie Kramer, Anna Glenn, Madison Kocian, Katelyn Ohashi

Things are looking better for the Bruins on vault this year. The introduction of both Sekai  Wright and Marz Frazier, both of whom bring 10.0 start value vaults, along with Kyla Ross showing a Y1.5 at Meet the Bruins, lend themselves to the fact that vault is improving for UCLA. Beyond them, Hano has a great 1.5, and Pauline Tratz has shown a handspring pike 1/2 in training before, but even if she doesn’t show it, her full is by far the best available for UCLA, so she is a lock. Gracie Kramer also has a tucked Y1.5 that can be used if she shows consistency (a big IF). Nia Dennis casually stuck her Y1.5 at M.T.B, and will be a staple in the vault lineup as well.

Uneven Bars: Lineup locks: Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Marz Frazier, Anna Glenn

Lineup options: Norah Flatley, Nia Dennis, Grace Glenn, Katelyn Ohashi, Macy Toronjo, Stella Savvidou

Bars have taken a dip following Peng´s retirement. That said, bars is still a solid event for UCLA this year, with Kyla Ross anchoring their efforts. We can expect to consistently see Madison Kocian in this lineup, as well as Marz Frazier, who showed a legs-together shap 1/2 and a big DLO at M.TB and looks to be a 9.9 ready bars worker if she can perfect the handstand positions. Beyond the core three, Anna Glenn made a great case for herself at M.T.B, with lovely toes, handstands, and a gorgeous straddle jaeger, all of which make a great case for a spot in the lineup. UCLA will really want Norah Flatley in the lineup this season, and while she certainly has the goods to make it happen (her jaeger is hypnotic), her bars routine at M.T.B was… not worthy of the lineup, and she will have to clean up tremendously in order to be the bars worker we know she can be. Nia Dennis is very clean and could be a good leadoff again this season, and if not her, Ohashi or Toronjo can swoop in for a 9.8.


Balance Beam: Lineup locks: Kyla Ross, Katelyn Ohashi, Brielle Nguyen, Grace Glenn, Norah Flatley

Lineup Options: Anna Glenn, Marz Frazier, Madison Kocian, Felicia Hano,

Beam is by far the best event for UCLA, with a tremendous amount of depth, combined with starpower from Ohashi and Ross, the Bruins are set to obliterate every other team on beam. Kyla and Katelyn are the stars of the lineup, along with Grace Glenn and those pretty toes and Brielle Nguyen with her fluid connections and solidity. The other gymnast who is set to rock the beam lineup is Norah Flatley. As a junior elite, beam was always Norah´s standout event due to her pristine execution, her beautiful extension, and her fabulous and fluid combinations. Flatley should be a star on beam for UCLA and can legitimately fill the hole that Peng has left behind.

I could see UCLA putting Madison Kocian in the last spot, but she has proven inconsistent on the event, so I´m not yet sold. Anna Glenn is an option, as is Marz Frazier, Savannah Kooyman, or Felicia Hano.


Floor Exercise:  Lineup Locks: Katelyn Ohashi, Felicia Hano, Marz Frazier, Nia Dennis, Pauline Tratz

Lineup Options: Gracie Kramer, Sekai Wright, Norah Flatley, Madison Kocian, Macy Toronjo, Brielle Nguyen.

UCLA´s Floor has a ton of depth this year. Senior Katelyn Ohashi, the national champion on floor, will anchor the Bruins lineup this year with some assistance from her trusty cohorts, Felicia Hano, and Marz Frazier. We can also expect to see Pauline Tratz regularly, as well as Nia Dennis and her piked full in. Beyond the fived just listed, Sekai Wright has a massive DLO that could contend for the last spot, and all of Madison Kocian, Gracie Kramer, and Norah Flatley have front 2/1 routines that can also have a look at the lineup, and expect to make cameos.





Worlds Preview: France

After winning the European team silver, the French have managed to put together a massively talented team this year. After losing vaulter Coline Devillard, expectations for a repeat team medal should be tampered. That said, they could snatch the bronze if things fall exactly right.

Team Members: 

Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos: 2017 European all around bronze medalist, world 2017 5th all around, 2018 European floor champion, the team´s ace, very legit all around contender, will do all four in TF

Marine Boyer: 2016 Olympic beam fourth place, 2016 European beam silver medalist, 2018 European beam bronze medalist, potential DTY and layout full on beam

Juliette Bossu: 2016 Olympian, 2018 European bars finalist, just doing bars I think, but her floor would be of use to the French team

Lorette Charpy: 2018 European bars finalist, will be expected to do everything but vault in TF

Louise Vanhille: 2016 Olympian, filling in for Charpy, probably will just do a Y-full in TFs

France has the goods on bars, beam, and floor to challenge for a medal. Their bars rotation is world class, and they have fantastic beam workers who will keep them near the top on that event as well. Floor is strong enough to tread water with a hit routine from Melanie, the European champion. Without Charpy and her Rudi, vault is the thorn in their side, where they only have one assured DTY. If Marine Boyer, who used to have a DTY, can bring hers back, France is just a stone throw and a China fall away from a medal. That said, if she can´t, the French will need some help to get a medal out of this.

Projected Lineups: 

VT: (Charpy) Vanhille, Boyer, DJDS

UB: (Boyer) Charpy, DJDS, Bossu

BB: (Vanhille) Charpy, DJDS, Boyer

FX: (Vanhille?) Charpy, Boyer, DJDS

The floor lineup is subject to change because of Bossu, who was a very good floor worker for France in 2016. If she´s competing it in Doha, she would probably take Boyer/Charpy´s spot.

All Around: 

Melanie DJDS is a very formidable all around gymnast these days, with every event of hers equally strong. Her evenness across the four pieces, combined with the big scores she can get on all of them, means that a hit day would very likely lead to an all around medal. She´ll likely be dueling for the bronze/silver medal with Melnikova, Murakami, and American #2 .

Lorette Charpy is likely to be the second all arounder, and while she´s passable enough, she doesn’t have the goods anywhere, except bars, to factor into the medal conversation.

If Marine Boyer is all arounder #2, see above, except switch bars for beam.

Event Final Prospects: 

VT: Without Coline Devillard, France won´t be looking to place anyone in the vault final.

UB: Bossu and DJDS can both make the final, but neither is very likely to medal without help. Charpy could also make the final, but she´d need help from one of her teammates to avoid the two-per rule.

BB: Boyer and DJDS placed third and fourth on beam at Euros, respectively. Both are contenders for medals here, but they aren’t as likely to medal as, say, Biles or Eaker or Chen or Wevers. Basically, they’ve got a lot of people to pass, but they can pull it off.

FX: France will hope for a medal from Melanie here, which is a possibility. Melanie is the European champion on this event, but when asked to go against Biles, Murakami, Moors, Saraiva, Melnikova, Fidelis and friends, it’s a tough fight. She can pull it off, though, it´ll just be harder than Euros.







Worlds Preview: China

China is spectacular this year… on beam. Don´t worry, I’m kinda kidding. China can medal as a team this year, but they MUST hit beam. They´re experiencing a drought on the power events (mainly due to the retirement of Wang Yan), and while their bars rotation is good, they can be passed by the Americans, the Russians, the Germans, and the British. Beam is the only event that they can win. Beam is their weapon and their ride to the podium. I can’t overstress the importance of beam for the Chinese. Did I mention that beam is really important for this team?

Team Members: 

Chen Yili: Asian all around champion, potential DTY, TF bars set, BEAM BEAM BEAM, the new one that gives China hope for the future

Luo Huan: Asian all around silver medalist, 2017 world bars finalist, Asian bars silver medalist, also pretty good on BEAM when she hits

Liu Jinru: The new Wang Yan, Rudi and Kas full on vault, DLO+punch front on floor, keeping China afloat on the power events, crucial to China´s TF success

Liu Tingting: 2018 Asian bars champion, 2017 world beam finalist, used to have a DTY, damn good at bars and BEAM, the team’s best combination of both.

Zhang Jin: 2018 Stuttgart world cup winner, Kas full on vault, whip+ 3/1 on floor, damn good BEAM worker

Du Siyu: The one who is taking Fan Yilin´s role, the new bars-a-tron, 6.4 d score, Downie, was injured most of the year, is still new to me

Projected Lineups: 

I know, who is the alternate? Let’s see…

With China, their biggest issue is their underpowered floor (and vault, but to a lesser degree) lineup. With that issue, anyone who looks like a TF floor worker is immediately on the team. So Liu Jinru, Chen, and Zhang are all safe.

The remaining three of Liu Tingting, Du Siyu, and Luo Huan are all UB/BEAM type gymnasts. Of said three, Liu Tingting can provide TF/medal worthy scores on both, so she should make the team along with the power gymnasts. Out of the remaining two, both have similar arguments (primarily centered around bars) for making the team. Du can claim that she can produce an untouchable score on bars, and Luo can claim that she can add to both the bars and the beam lineups. Sadly for Luo, her argument is rendered useless, as the beam lineup is already full with Zhang, Liu TT, and Chen, and while she can put up a good score on bars, she is inconsistent there, and Du will almost undoubtedly beat her there with a hit routine. Luo is the likely alternate, sadly for her.


VT: Chen, Zhang, Liu J

UB: Chen, Liu TT, Du

BEAM: Zhang, Liu TT, Chen

FX: Chen, Zhang, Liu J

Not bad at all, especially if Chen has her DTY by worlds. And, as I said, THAT BEAM THOUGH.

All Around: 

Chen, the Asian all around champ, is a very legitimate all around contender. She must hit bars and BEAM spectacularly, though, to make up for a (potential) FTY and a weak-ish floor routine.

As for China’s second all arounder, Zhang Jin is a fantastic gymnast on three pieces, but her bars routine keeps her from being a true contender in the all around.

Event Final Prospects: 

VT: Being the new Wang Yan, Liu Jinru is expected to make the vault final. Her difficulty keeps her in the conversation for a medal, but she has to hit both of her vaults well if she wants to beat Olsen, Devai, Melnikova etc.

UB: China can realistically expect two bars finalists. Liu Tingting is the Asian champion on bars, so with a hit, she can make the final with relative ease. China’s newest (and most realistic) bars medal hope is Du Siyu, who has the start value to challenge anyone (6.4 D puts her right up there with Derwael and Downie). What hinders her is both her consistency and how little we know about her. She just came back from injury, so who knows what she looks like right now? With that said, she´s a medal favorite with a hit.

BEAM: BEAM is China’s place to go 1-2. I´d expect Chen to have a good shot at #1 with a hit, and Liu Tingting can also challenge for a medal with a good one. Zhang Jin can also make the final, but she’ll need a teammate to falter if she wants in.

Though China has a SPECTACULAR beam team this year, they aren´t without competition on the event. Biles, Sanne Wevers, and Kara Eaker all pose threat to the Chinese two. I´m actually SO excited for the beam final.

Floor: Don´t. Just hit it in the TF. Please. The start values just aren’t there for this one, without Wang Yan.



Worlds Preview: Russia

After winning Euros this year, the Russian team will look for a silver medal in the team final. Though they do face pressure from the Chinese, the Japanese, and the French, as long as they hit beam (HAHA, kidding, 2/3 hit beam routines would be fine), they should be cruising to a silver medal, and a team berth to the Olympics.

Team Members: 

Angelina Melnikova: European vault silver and bars bronze, the glue that holds the team together, needs to do all four pieces in the team final, just unveiled a Cheng, can contend for an all around medal

Aliya MustafinaGave birth five minutes ago, casual seven-time Olympic medalist, just doing bars and beam here, should be the team’s top scorer on both

Angelina Simakova: The other Angelina, Rudi on vault, clean floor tumbling, the perfect counterbalance to;

Irina Alexeeva: Former American Elite, solid on beam, pretty bars routine that Russia can use in the TF, also has a backup floor routine

Lillia AkhaimovaThe one that I´m newly obsessed with, Rudi, HUGE floor tumbling, DLO, DBA+punch front, piked DBA, full in

Daria Spiridonova: 2015 bars world champion, apparently has her inbars back, the likely alternate for the team

Projected Lineups: 

VT: (Alexeeva) Simakova, Akhaimova, Melnikova

UB: (Simakova) Alexeeva, Mustafina, Melnikova

BB: (Simakova) Alexeeva, Melnikova, Mustafina

FX: (Alexeeva) Simakova, Akhaimova, Melnikova

This Russian team was chosen with the intention of maximizing their scoring potential on the power events, as evidenced by their Rudi, Rudi, Cheng vault rotation. Their floor lineup, while inconsistent, should rival the top with hit routines. Their bars rotation, while strong, isn’t historically as RUSSIA as it could have been. Russia will miss the bars score they could have had from say, Komova, or Ilyankova. Alexeeva is a good enough replacement, but I don´t understand why Komova didn’t get the spot. Komova beats her on bars, and can outscore her on beam with a hit. In addition, Komova has a worthwhile-ish DTY. Oh well, the difference will be minimal.

All Around:
Melnikova is a very legitimate all around medal contender. Melnikova has the goods on all four pieces to trump the likes of DJDS, Murakami, Black, Chen, and co to win the bronze behind Biles and American #2. For her, it comes down to whether or not she can hit beam. If she can, she’s got a very good case for a medal.

Russia´s second all arounder will presumably be the other Angelina, Angelina Simakova. Simakova also has the goods to join the fight for the bronze, but her hit rate on beam is discouragingly low. She can contend if she hits to the best of her ability, but realistically, she’ll want to make the top eight.

Event Final Prospects

Russia will be hoping for medals on every event, but they won’t be expecting very many of them.

Vault: Melnikova will be able to fight for vault bronze, and Akhaimova can also make the final if she hits.

Bars: Without Ilyankova on the team, a bars medal is a tough ask. Of course, Mustafina and Melnikova are contenders, but Mustafina doesn’t have the difficulty right now, and Melnikova´s execution can get shoddy at times. That said, both can still fight for a bronze.

Beam: Don’t expect much here. You never know what Mustafina will put together, so its possible for her, but her eternal flight series battle will likely hinder her.

Floor: Russia can hope to make a dent here. Melnikova can absolutely pull off a medal here with a clean hit, and Akhaimova and Simakova can also make the final, and medal if mistakes are made by others.


USA Worlds Preview

After a full summer of gymnastics, the US team for the world championships has been chosen. I apologize for missing the US Classic, the US GYmnastics Championships, and the US Worlds Selection Camp. I worked this summer, which caused me to slack on my blogging. I will try to be better.

The USA team consists of Simone Biles, Riley Mccusker, Morgan Hurd, Kara Eaker, Grace Mccallum, and Ragan Smith, with Smith the likely alternate. Enjoy!

Simone Biles: After coming back at the US classic in July, Simone has shown us that she is still far-and-away the best gymnast in the world. Simone swept nationals (the first woman to do that since Dominique Dawes) and won the all around at selection camp, despite falling on her beam dismount. In addition, she unveiled the Cheng-half at selection camp (6.4 D) and scored an astronomical 16.0.

At worlds, Simone will be expected to win the All-around, vault, floor, and has been looking like a good bet for a beam gold as well (despite facing competition from Kara Eaker and Sanne Wevers, among others). She can also contend for the bars final, mainly due to her Van Leeuwen and Fabrichnova dismount (double-double off of bars) upgrades. Simone is certainly the leader of the team, and will likely be the top scorer on three out of four events (4/4 is possible, but unlikely). Though she’s a superstar, saying that she carries this team, or that her teammates would fail without her is insulting and untrue. Her teammates are a star-studded group of athletes, which includes:

Riley Mccusker: After coming back from a season-ending injury last year, I had tampered expectations for Riley this year. However, she blew my expectations out of the water, placing second in the all-around at the US Classic (behind Biles, and ahead of Morgan Hurd), and following that up with a third place all around finish at the US Championships. Mccusker has shown tremendous improvements, mainly on vault and bars, re-upgrading to a DTY on vault and adding a Ricna+Pak+Chow 1/2 combo on bars. Mccusker is looking like a likely bet for one of the all-around spots after finishing second at the selection camp, but will likely be relegated to bars and beam in the team final.

Morgan Hurd: After winning the world championships last year, Hurd seemed like a different gymnast, with such confidence, evidenced by her American Cup performance and the fact that she hit eight out of eight routines at nationals for the first time. Hurd placed third at the US Classic after falling on beam, second at nationals after hitting eight out of eight, and third at the selection camp, after hitting all of her routines, but making sizable errors on floor and beam. Hurd was put on this team with the intention of being the third all around gymnast, but her most recent performance has left some people questioning her status. Grace Mccallum beat Hurd (even with a fall on bars) at camp, so Morgan will have to show that she is still the #2-#3 all arounder when worlds roll around. In the team final, the only event Hurd will undoubtedly perform is bars, where she has been the consistent third-best on the team. If she can pull it together, she´ll also be expected to do floor and vault, where she can provide strong leadoff routines for team USA.

Kara Eaker: Eaker was put on this team for her spectacular beam routine. Despite a rocky start to her season, falling at the US Classic, Eaker has shown tremendous confidence and precision on the event, slowly climbing the rankings. Eaker placed second to Biles on the event at nationals, and then went on to win the Pan American Championship title on beam, solidifying her place as a contender for the team.

Eaker peaked when she needed to, placing first on beam at the selection camp with a MASSIVE 15.150. Though her routine is connection-heavy, and some are worried about her ring position being devalued, Kara has shown that she can aggressively hit her tricky connections, and is a true gold medal contender on beam if she hits. In the team final, Kara will be expected to anchor her specialty event, and I could see them putting her on floor if Hurd can’t pull it together (Eaker won bronze on floor at pan ams).

Ragan Smith: After a rough start to 2018, placing ninth in the all around at nationals, and consistently falling on bars, Ragan Smith rebounded at the selection camp. She managed to place third on beam, fourth on floor, and fifth in the all around, good enough to make the team, even if she is likely to take the alternate spot.
It is possible for her to sneak onto the main team. Her best shot will be to consistently outscore Kara Eaker on beam, which is a big ask, but it can happen, if Eaker opens the door. She could also take the spot currently held by Grace Mccallum, by outscoring her in the all around and on floor.

Grace Mccallum: This year, Grace Mccallum has been the little engine that could, winning the all around at Pacific Rims and Pan Ams, and following it up with a fourth place finish at nationals. At selection camp, Mccallum solidified her spot by finishing third with a fall on bars (a truly terrifying fall on the catch of her Van Leeuwen). When Jade Carey was in the picture, Mccallum seemed likely to take the traveling alternate role for the team. Without her, though, Grace provides a good DTY and a TF worthy floor routine, so she´s basically slipped into the role Jade Carey would play for the team. Though she should be one of the five, it is possible for Smith to pass her if she seems to be more prepared on floor, or if she is beating her in the all around.


Where is Jade?: 

Notably absent from this team is World vault and floor silver medalist, Jade Carey. Carey showed up to nationals with an upgraded, and HUGE floor set, along with a DTY/Amanar and Lopez combo on vault. Jade won both of her events at pan ams, and was invited to the selection camp. Jade declined invitation to the selection camp and seems to be eyeing an individual spot at the Olympics for vault and floor. The Balance Beam Situation does a fantastic job of explaining the qualification procedure for the individuals, and why this is a good idea for Jade, but not so good for Team USA, so check them out!

Projected Lineups: 

VT: (Riley) Morgan, Grace, Simone

UB: (Grace) Morgan, Simone, Riley

BB: (Morgan) Riley, Simone, Kara

FX: (Riley) Morgan?, Grace, Simone

But what if Eaker is the alternate? 

VT: (Riley) Morgan, Grace, Simone

UB: (Grace?) Morgan, Simone, Kara

BB: (Morgan) Riley, Ragan, Simone

FX: (Riley) Morgan, Grace, Simone

But what if Mccallum is the alternate? 

VT: (Riley) Ragan, Morgan, Simone

UB: (Ragan) Morgan, Simone, Riley

BB: (Morgan/Riley) Ragan, Simone, Kara

FX: (Riley) Kara/Ragan, Morgan, Simone

For fun: Team #2: Shilese Jones, Jordan Chiles, Alyona Shchennikova, Audrey Davis, Trinity Thomas
VT: (Trinity) Audrey, Shilese, Jordan

UB: (Shilese) Trinity, Audrey, Alyona

BB (Alyona/Audrey) Shilese, Jordan, Trinity

FX: (Alyona?) Jordan, Shilese, Trinity



US Classic Preview+Key Routines

The US Classic is set to take place on July 28th, with podium training happening on the 27th. Classic is always tricky to preview, because we have no idea who will do the all around, and who will show up to do one or two events. Obviously, those who want to qualify to nationals as an all arounder will plan to compete all four, but the big names/national team members can afford to show a few events, and save the all around for nationals. Here, I’ll go through the roster for classics, name the competitors, and list their key routines/what they’re trying to accomplish at this meet. So, let’s get started with a little someone named…

Simone Biles: Simone was originally planning to compete bars and beam here, but then revealed via Twitter that she’s too good for the rest of the world and will show all four events at Classic. Obviously, she could show up, do a split jump on the beam, and immediately be handed five Olympic gold medals, but our Simone has much more in store than that. If you’ve watched the Biles.Is.Back video on YouTube, you’ve seen the plethora of potential upgrades that USAG teased us with. We were shown a Moors on floor, a TTY on vault, a double double off of beam, all of which are exciting, but the real show stopper was bars. Simone has always been a good, consistent bars workers, never not scoring in the 14.8-15.0 range, but we’ve always known she was capable of more. After picking up the Landi’s as coaches, she’s shown a Piked Jaeger (E), Van Leeuwen (E), and a Fabrichnova (F), a total of 1.2 new points in start value, not counting the potential CV. While the rest of her events have exciting upgrade potential, I’m most excited to see her bars composition. She revealed in an interview that she’s planning on competing the Van Leeuwen and the Fabrichnova, as well as a Maloney to Tkatchev combo. Simone will be expected to win the all around, along with VT, BB, and FX for sure. She also has a chance to win bars with Gabby Perea skipping this meet. If she can handle the nerves, she’s on the fast track to the win here, as well as the worlds team later this year.

Morgan Hurd: After winning the world all around title last year, Hurd showed up to American Cup looking even stronger, as well as showing several upgrades that will help keep her ahead of the all around pack, trying to dethrone her as the #2 all arounder behind Simone. While we’re unsure of the events she plans to compete, Hurd’s goal will be a podium finish in the all around (provided she competes it), as well as placing in the top three on bars and beam. Though very much an all around gymnast, Hurd’s most competitive single event has been bars, where she boasts a high start value of 6.1, as well as some lovely form and lines. Beam is the most stacked event in the US right now, but Hurd has the potential to be the #3 beamer behind Kara Eaker and Simone Biles. Hurd has great form on beam, as well as good difficulty with her back tuck full and piked full in dismount. A successful classic for Hurd would look something like a podium finish on bars, as well as a top-five beam routine, both of which are distinctly possible.

Ragan Smith: After winning nationals last year, Smith made the worlds team, was favored to win the all around, and was injured in the warmups just before the competition started. Despite her bad luck, Smith showed up at Jesolo and looked good, if not her usual best, downgrading her vault to a full and struggling with her floor tumbling. Luckily, she looked good on bars and beam, medaling on both events, keeping her afloat in team conversations. The goal for Ragan will be to outscore Morgan Hurd on both bars and beam, proving she still has the potential to be the #2 all arounder. Achieving this (along with podium finishes on the events she competes) would be considered a successful classic for Ragan.

Emma Malabuyo: Emma was the breakout star at Jesolo, winning the all around, as well as beam and floor. Though she’s usable on all events, the ones where she’ll make an impact would be beam and floor. Unluckily for Malabuyo, beam is the most stacked event for the US right now, and floor is mostly covered, with Biles and Carey taking up two spots. It’s critical that Malabuyo defeat Carey on floor, as well as place in the top three on beam, otherwise. A successful classic for Emma would include top three finishes on both beam and floor, as well as the all around, should she choose to compete it.

Jade Carey: Carey came out of nowhere to medal on both vault and floor at worlds last year, and has since been adding skills on bars to compete as an all arounder. Though Simone possess’s a similar skill set, Jade is still very much in play to beef up the vault and floor lineups at worlds. That said, her spot is far from guaranteed. Her Amanar landing is what cost her the vault gold medal at worlds last year, and if she hasn’t cleaned it up, she’s susceptible to being passed by Jordan Chiles’s Amanar. While she has gigantic tumbling on floor, she lacks the artistry that all of Smith, Hurd, and Malabuyo possess. In order to retain the #2 spot on floor, she has to hit her floor routine with good landings, but adding some more difficult dance elements would also serve her well (she counted a B at worlds last year). Carey must consistently place second on both vault and floor if she wants to make the worlds team. A good Classic for Jade would look something like… Top five all around and second on vault and floor?

Kara Eaker: Eaker has shown up this year to become the unprecedented beam queen among the US. Kara seems to be eyeing an Alyssa Batman type spot on the team this year, and while that’s a tougher ask on a five person team, if she consistently wins beam this summer, how could you say no to that? Obviously, beam will be the key event for Eaker, but her next objective will be to show a second usable event to prove that she isn’t a one trick pony. She has the GAGE lines on bars, as well as some decent tumbling on floor, so we’ll see how she stacks up on those events. Placing first on beam is the goal for Eaker, and achieving that would be considered a successful US classic.

Jordan Chiles: Considering she lives two towns away from me, I’m a HUGE fan of Jordan’s. After placing second at nationals, Chiles went to the Stuttgart World Cup and placed third in the all around after falling on her newly upgraded bars and beam routines. While she has tremendous potential on all four events, the one she can use to standout is vault, where she has a great Amanar. She needs to hit the vault, as well as floor, where she has a good combo of artistry and tumbling. Jordan’s  best move to make the worlds team would be to steal Jade Carey’s spot by somehow outscoring her on both vault and floor. If she can accomplish that, she should make the team. However, her goal at classics will be to hit whichever events she competes, and prove that she’s a viable backup on bars and beam.

Riley Mccusker: After an untimely injury following nationals last year, Mccusker returned at the American Classic, placing second on beam with a 14.0 and scoring a 13.5 on bars after falling on her Van Leeuwen. Despite being injury prone, Mccusker is still in play for worlds this year, due to her prowess on uneven bars. The goal for classic will be to qualify to the all around at nationals (she’s qualified on UB and BB) as well as to win bars and place in the top three on beam. Achieving this would make it a successful classic for Riley.

Olivia Dunne: Olivia Dunne is an absolutely gorgeous gymnast with a TON of potential for the future. She isn’t going to factor into the worlds team, but an alternate position is possible. The goal for Olivia is to qualify to the all around at nationals, which she can do as long as she hits.

Grace Mccallum: Grace Mccallum has twice been able to capitalize on Morgan Hurd’s mistakes, defeating her at both Pac Rims and the April verification camp. Mccallum is a FABULOUS all arounder, with no true weak event. Her best chance to make the worlds team would be to do so as an all arounder. While that’s a tough ask with Biles, Hurd, Smith, and Malabuyo all likely to defeat her, she’s a consistent gymnast and could capitalize on others mistakes. The classics goal for Mccallum would be to place second in the all around, granted she competes it, along with placing in the top three-five on bars, floor, and vault.

Alyona Schennikova: Schennikova is the defending champion at this event, and while it’s nearly impossible to defend her title, she’ll be looking for a podium finish on bars, her best event.

Audrey Davis: Audrey Davis needs to qualify to nationals as an all arounder. She’s qualified on vault (where she has a DTY) and bars (where she’s channeled her inner WOGA with a Healy to layout Jaeger combo!), but she’s talented enough to make it as an all a rounder. A top five finish on bars would be nice for her, but her main goal will be qualifying.

Shilese Jones: Jones showed up at the American Classic and won both vault and floor, the latter of which where she has gigantic tumbling such as a double double and a double Arabian. A successful classic for Jones would look like top five finishes on both vault and floor.

Adeline Kenlin: Kenlin placed seventh in the all around at Jesolo this year and looked great while doing so, with great front tumbling on floor, as well as aggressive bars and beam work. Sadly, she’s since been injured, relegating her to just bars here. She’s great on the event, with an inbar to stalder full to tkatchev combo, along with a double front half out dismount, and a top five finish would be a successful showing.




NCAA Nationals Preview

(Please note: My knowledge of NCAA is lower than my elite knowledge)

Today marks the start of the NCAA national championships. There are two divisions of six teams competing, and the top three teams from each divisions will advance to the super six held on sunday. Division one is LSU, UCLA, Alabama, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Georgia. In this division, LSU and UCLA are locks barring a disaster. UCLA should get some boost from Madison Kocian’s return on bars, but their two 10.0 start value vaults hold them back. Thankfully, they can make those points up on beam and floor. The third spot could realistically go to any of the other three schools. I’d say that Alabama is the most likely to advance, as they hung around in seventh behind Michigan all season, but Michigan is out now, so they should be the clear number six. Georgia also has a chance, as they weren’t expected to advance from regionals, but they pulled that off, so why not here? It would take a perfect meet (and a sixth vaulter would help too), but it’s gymnastics, and Georgia has the underdog, fighting spirit, and I hope they work some magic.

The second division is composed of Oklahoma, Utah, Florida, Washington, Cal, and Kentucky. Obviously, Oklahoma is going to advance preventing a major meltdown. The other two spots will likely go to Utah and Florida, as they have consistently been ranked 4 and 5 in the preseason. Florida actually has the potential to challenge Oklahoma, as they’re the only team that has defeated them this season. They also seem to struggle putting hit meets together, but when they do, they likely have the second highest scoring potential. Utah should make super six, but they lack the standout routines (Mykayla Skinner aside) to challenge the top four. Should one of the top three here make mistakes, Washington could sneak in with a great meet. Obviously I’m going to root for them, as I FREAKING LIVE IN THE STATE. They have an excellent beam rotation capable of challenging anyone, they just need to make sure they stick their low difficulty vaults. Cal could also challenge for the third spot should top teams falter, but they’ve been inconsistent themselves, and have been ranked lower than their talent warrants.

Basically, I’m just hoping that UCLA and Washington advance. Everything past that is irrelevant to me. Just kidding, but really, I need them to hit.

Mustafina Returns at Russian Championships This Week.

The Russian Championships are slated to begin this week. This competition will mark the return of seven time Olympic medalist, Aliya Mustafina. Mustafina took some time off after the Rio games, got married, and gave birth to a baby girl.

Coming back after two years would be difficult for anyone, even Mustafina. But when you add giving birth into the mix, I think you can understand why my expectations for her are very low. However, simply returning to competition is a feat within itself, and come on, she’s Aliya, she knows what she’s doing. Mustafina will only bring her best when she really needs it.

Also present at this meet are Mustafina’s Olympic teammates, Angelina Melnikova, Viktoria Komova, Seda Tutkhalyan, and Daria Spiridonova. None have been in top form recently, aside from Melnikova, who won the Birmingham World Cup and placed fourth at Jesolo. Komova and Tutkhalyan were absent for the majority of last season, both plagued by injuries. Komova came back early this year, competing in the Voronin Cup and the Stuttgart team competition. She reportedly received the highest bars score at camp last month, but she competes too many toe on skills, which drops her D score considerably. Tutkhalyan competed at the Russian Championships last year, but she struggled to overcome her injuries, causing her to miss the high point of the season. Spiridonova actually competed consistently last season, hitting a few decent bar routines at Universiade, but she wasn’t a top choice for worlds, and her teammate Anastasia Ilyankova was chosen over her.

Speaking of Ilyankova, she looked great at Jesolo last weekend, placing third in the AA, winning bars, and making the beam final as well. If she hits, she could absolutely win the AA. Also competing here are first year seniors, Angelina Simakova and Varvara Zubova, both of whom are hoping to add depth to the Russian team. Also making an appearance is world medalist Tatiana Nabieva, who has been around for a remarkable eight years! Though she knows her chances of making teams are slim, it’s nice to see Nabs out there enjoying herself.

Also in attendance is Irina Alexeeva, who was born in Russia but trained at WOGA in the United States. Alexeeva has wanted to represent the US for quite some time, but she only managed to get a green card, meaning she could never compete for the United States at major international competitions. It would appear that Alexeeva has turned to Russia for the time being. While the Russian team does have plenty of depth, Alexeeva is strong on bars and floor, the latter being where Russia is historically weak. Hopefully Irina will be happy competing for the country she was born in, and I wish her the best of luck.

Several veterans are competing here as well, including World and European medalist, Maria Kharenkova, and World Cup gold medalists, Lillia Akhaimova and Eleonora Afanasyeva. Performing alongside them is the lovely Elena Perebisnova, who took silver on bars at the Doha World Cup.

Notably absent from this meet are Elena Eremina and Maria Paseka, both of whom had back surgery, and are currently recovering. With Eremina out, it leaves some holes on the Russian team that Alexeeva is hoping to fill.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the amount of depth that the Russian team has managed to accumulate, and I know they’ll do great things. With exciting newcomers and reliable veterans, they have a good mix of gymnasts, and they’ll be unstoppable.

Commonwealth Games Preview

The Commonwealth Games are slated to begin on April fifth. The two contenders for the team title are Canada and Great Britain. Canada is the clear front runner, as they’re sending a very talented team including World silver medalist, Ellie Black. Black will compete alongside teammates including Olympic beam finalist, Isabela Onyshko, Olympic and World vault finalist, Shallon Olsen, NCAA star, Brittany Rogers, and newcomer, Jade Chrobok. This team is fairly balanced and has no real weak event, despite losing Olympic team member, Rose Woo to injury. On vault, they should have a Cheng from Olsen alongside a handspring full from Black and a DTY from Rogers. On bars, Rogers is the standout if she hits, but she was quite inconsistent last season. She’ll be expected to go up alongside Black and Chrobok/Onyshko in the TF. On beam, they have two great routines from Black and Onyshko, and a decent one from Chrobok. On floor, Black, Olsen, and Onyshko are expected to perform here. This team is fairly balanced and should top the podium if they hit. However, team Great Britain won’t go down without a fight. Event finals are fairly well rounded for this team, with Olsen and Black expected to make the vault finals, and Rogers expected to make the bars final along with Black. Both Black and Onyshko could easily make the beam final, preventing any falls, and Black and Olsen are expected to make the floor final with hit routines

Despite sending a mostly B team due to injuries, the British team competing here is still one with plenty of potential and talent. The young group of gymnasts are lead by National champion and American Cup competitor, Kelly Simm. In addition to Simm, Worlds team members, Georgia Mae Fenton and Alice Kinsella are also present alongside newcomers, Lucy Stanhope and Taeja James. Unfortunately, Great Britain has suffered injuries to nearly all of their top competitors including Ellie Downie, Becky Downie, Amy Tinkler, and Claudia Fragapane. Though losing their veterans hurts quite a bit, the team competing here today could certainly challenge Canada if mistakes are made by their opponents. On vault, they have two DTY’s from Stanhope and Kinsella alongside Kelly Simm’s Podkopayeva (RO half-on front pike half). Georgia Mae Fenton is the only standout competitor on bars, having nearly made the final at worlds. Kelly Simm and Lucy Stanhope will be expected to fill the lineup here, though I could see them swapping Taeja James in should Lucy Stanhope implode. Beam has always been GB’s nemesis, and this team is no exception to that, with none of Simm, Kinsella, or Fenton very strong here. Thankfully, they’ll be able to have a respectable showing on floor, with Simm, Kinsella, and Stanhope all solid on this event. While the loss of their stars will certainly dim their chances of beating Canada, they’re right there with them if they hit and stay consistent. This team could make finals in several places, but the most likely spot would be Fenton on bars. I could also see Simm/Kinsella making the floor final.

While Canada and Great Britain are far ahead of the rest of the field, I’d predict the bronze medal will go to the Australian team. They’ve sent their top gymnasts, such as Georgia-Rose Brown, Alexandra Eade, Georgia Godwin, Rianna Mizzen, and Emily Whitehead. Though their depth/talent is low for a top level team, the other nations that they’ll be fighting, such as Cyprus, Malaysia, and Scotland, have their own issues. As for event finals, Mizzen has a difficult bar routine and could medal if she hits. Georgia Rose Brown also has a chance at floor finals.